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When the late afrobeat maestro Fela Anikulapo-Kuti labelled Nigeria as a ‘Zoo’, there was no criticism to that fact because as far as terms and definitions go, calling Nigeria a Zoo was in fact an understatement to what the Country actually is. A country whose Government hides under the umbrella of democracy to mete out heart-wrenching, nepotistic and hypocritical policies that see greedy politicians getting richer and richer while the masses keep suffering and wallowing in poverty.
Last week Tuesday’s plenary session at the Senate chamber of the National Assembly was completely disrupted after the Senators were welcomed with a sight that can only be likened to a National embarrassment. The Senate lobby of the National Assembly Complex had filled with water during the Tuesday downpour in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. The wind had blown off the roofs, leaving the lobby flooded with rainwater as visitors and Senators trooped in for the days business. The photos and videos of cleaners battling to salvage the situation and curtail the spread of the flood water with buckets and dustpans made local and international headlines turning Nigeria into a laughing stock once again. Nigerians in turn minced no words in expressing their utter embarrassment and outrage when the videos hit the social media.
Rather than take responsibility for the calamity, the Senators were at each other’s throats looking for who to blame for the deteriorated state of the National Assembly building. Recall that in the 2020 budget, the Federal Government allocated N9.25bn, for the renovation/retrofitting of the National Assembly (NASS) Complex. It was a capital allocation fixed under the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) budget. Deputy Whip of the Senate, Senator Sabi Abdullahi who raised a point on order on Tuesday June 23, said reports about the leaky roof breached the privilege of the lawmakers and were done to denigrate their integrity. Noting that the N37 billion earmarked for the renovation of the National Assembly complex in the 2020 budget was slashed to N9 billion in the revised one, Abdullahi stated that the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) was in charge of the maintenance of the complex and not the lawmakers against the belief of many Nigerians. He also disclosed that up till now, nothing has been done. In his words:
‘It was reported that because of that leakage, it delayed our sitting. That also was not correct. The leadership had housekeeping matters and until the leadership enters the chamber, sitting would not begin.’
‘Thirdly and the most critical, was that the leadership approved N37 billion for the rehabilitation. This is nothing further from the truth.’
‘When the 9th Senate came on board, the leadership noticed dilapidation and the need for the rehabilitation of the national assembly complex.’
‘The Senate President and speaker approached Mr President to report this matter and we were all briefed that Mr President was willing to ensure that something is done about it.’
‘When the pandemic came, the N37bn was reduced to N9bn so we can take the rehabilitation in phases. As we speak nothing is being done.’
Responding to this, Senate President Ahmad Lawan maintained that the leaky roof is a clear testimony, confirmation and vindication of the position the national assembly took initially on renovation of the building. Lawan further stated that if the national assembly leaks, then we are not holding our democracy with the respect it has.
‘The fact that there was a leakage to me is a clear testimony, confirmation and vindication of the position the national assembly took initially.’
‘Everyone knows that this place is overdue for rehabilitation. We went to see Mr President and he was gracious and he asked us to meet with FCTA, the owners of the building.’
‘Myself, the speaker, late chief of staff and minister of finance met to look for money for the rehabilitation of the national assembly.’
‘When the N37 billion was approved, it was not a National Assembly budget, it was an FCDA budget.’
‘If this place leaks we are not holding our democracy with the respect it has. We expect the press to inform the people responsibly.’
‘This house is the house of Nigerians. It belongs to Nigerians and it deserves to be rehabilitated.’
This whole episode has again brought to the fore the poor maintenance culture in Nigeria and the dirty corruption and embezzlement syndicate under the present President Muhammadu Buhari’s government. How was the 37 Billion naira allocated for these maintenance services used up? For the roof of the National Assembly to get blown off so easily, it shows that for subsequent years, there has been no adequate maintenance which throws open the fact that all allocations that should have gone to the structuring of the National Assembly has all gone into the pockets of the ministers in charge of dispersing out the funds for the maintenance.
Nigerian Senators on their own part have completely failed the Country and her citizens. The salary structure of an average Nigerian Senator would be enough to roof the National Assembly building twice with the right estimation and quality products. The fact that this ‘National Embarrasment’ happened at their own ‘workplace’ goes a long way to show how irresponsible most Nigerian Senators are with the exception of a few Senators like Senator Abaribe Enyinnaya who have stood their ground and held their own against their corrupt colleagues.
If President Buhari and his directionless Government are finding it difficult to curtail some of these corrupt excesses that lead to these embarrassing events, then it shows that Nigerians are in for the hottest ride of their lives with this Government.
AFRICA TODAY NEWS, NEW YORK